Empowering Our Sisters: Know the Facts about Black Women’s Health

Select Page Empowering Our Sisters: Know the Facts about Black Women’s Health

On Saturday May 4th, over 300 women gathered at Christiana Hospital’s John H. Ammon’s Medical Education Center for the Sixth Annual Empowering Our Sisters: Our Journey to Wellness Empowerment Summit.

Upon arrival attendees were greeted with smiling faces and women dressed in red from the Wilmington (DE) Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (DST) eager to check women and vendors in.

As attendees arrived, they enjoyed breakfast, visiting vendors in the lobby, free health screenings, and picture slideshow of previous events in the main auditorium until the official welcome began.

The official welcome started shortly after 9am from current president Karen H. Bostick who acknowledged that it was DST’s 70th year anniversary before bringing on the president elect, Stephanie Toland-Mayo to share opening remarks.

The welcome continued with a divine invocation from Reverend Dawn Christopher of Byrd AME Church. Followed by an overview of the purpose and summative objectives by Health Summit Chair, Sarah S. Harrison. Harrison also introduced and welcomed Bettina Tweardy Riveros, Esquire who is the Chief Health Equity Officer and Senior VP of Government Affairs and Community Engagement at Christiana Care Health System (CCHS). Shortly after Lieutenant Governor, Bethany Hall Long shared remarks on her continued support on the summit and our need to work as a community to tackle the opioid crisis in Delaware.

Attendees were then able to complete a live and interactive health reflection called, “Prevention & Lifestyle Checkup” with Dr. Margot Savoy from the Department of Family and Community Medicine, LKSOM at Temple University Medical School & Temple University Hospital. Dr. Savoy asked the audience to sign up at a link to access a digital poll service that displayed attendee’s responses on the projector and every flat screen TV in the auditorium. Questions consisted of but were not limited to: last vegetable eaten, weight loss and/or gained, amount of recent exercise, and more! A number of audience members came to the microphone in the center of the auditorium to elaborate more on their responses. One woman said she lost 7 pounds testing out veganism, and another woman suggested you should make exercise a priority and then schedule everything else around it.

After this lively welcome to the summit, Dr. Margaret Savoy sat down with Dr. Cydney Teal from the Department of Family & Community Medicine at CCHS, and through this living room style conversation Teal emphasized the need to be your own care giver first, ensure you have a primary care doctor, and to enter into doctor’s appointment with a clear plan of action.

Savoy even suggested creating a health binder to track all appointments, procedures, medical bills, symptoms, etc. to track the history and patterns of your health, and make it easier to discuss with others.

Once they both exited the stage Dr. Yolanda Hendley, a cardiologist at St. Francis Health Care took the stage. Dr. Hendley informed the audience of the fact that cardiovascular disease causes one in three women’s death each year and is the No. 1 killer of women. She gave a comprehensive presentation on cardiovascular disease, the scope of the problem, and preventative measures women could take. Dr. Hendley emphasized that depression and stress cause heart failure because so many black women are overly stressed with both their personal and professional lives.

The final speaker for the empowerment plenary sessions was Dr. Marshala R. Lee, Director of the Harrington Value Institute Community Partnership Fund at CCHS. Her informative talk focused on strokes as May is National Stroke Awareness Month. She started by showing a map of the United States which emphasized that stroke is more prevalent in southern states. Dr. Lee provided visual diagrams that showed how stroke occur in the brain and blood system to shed light on preventive measures as well as the FAST method to spot it. FAST stands for: Face dropping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call for help.

The ladies of Delta Sigma Theta thanked each speaker for sharing their time and expertise with attendees.

Following these sessions, participants were encouraged to take a quick break by visiting exhibitors in the lobby and getting health screenings such as blood pressure checks. Vendors ranged from the University of Delaware to Juice Plus, to YWCA, to Lupus Foundation of America, to the Department of Health and Social Services for Delaware.

Attendees returned to the main auditorium to hear a keynote address by Velma Scantlebury, the first African American Female Transplant Surgeon in the United States. She shared her story growing up in Barbados where she experiences bullying, but eventually grew to explore her love for medicine. As she entered college and entered more white American spaces she found her ability to be doubted. But, she expressed how she overcame obstacles including depression in order to fulfill her dreams as a doctor.

Before breaking for lunch, the women attendees got an updated on the Advances in Triple Negative Breast Cancer from Dr. Margot Savoy. At last year’s conference attendees received an in depth session the same topic. This updated shed light on the lack of treatments for black women are often a result of our lack participation in medical studies which help determine what works better for our bodies.

The afternoon continued with bagged lunch of turkey sandwiches, fruit, chips, cookie, and drink. As the adult women engaged in sessions and lunch. Teen girls participated in their own separate track in separate rooms next to the auditorium. Their days began with a welcome from LaShanda Wooten and invocation from Dr. Karen Stallings.

The girls enjoyed informative and engaging sessions such as: #Be Fearless on suicide awareness, #Be Solid on healing from traumatic experiences, #Be Amazing on self-care, #Be Fit on health and wellness, and #Be Ready on self-defense.

In the #BeAmazing session with Dr. Karen Stallings she focus on ensuring the girls recognize the benefit to being mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually in alignment.

In the #Be Ready session with Kayla Morgan and Shaony Torress she taught the girls how defend themselves with a hands on demonstration and practice of self-defense moves.

As the girls wrapped up their day with lunch and raffles, the adult women in the auditorium listened in to their empowerment plenary session with Pastor Cleo Townsend who spoke on the importance of connecting physical, mental, and spiritual health. She emphasized the need to combine methods of empowerment for a more holistic approach to healing such as reading the bible but also enjoy self-help books.

Attendees then took some time to reflect with a hands on activity with their table groups in which they discuss and wrote down what they want to continue doing for their health and what they needed to start doing in order to be healthy and well moving forward. Attendees who reported out from their tables received gift bags.

The summit ended with many attendees favorite part: Fashion Show. Each year women who have experienced mental or physical challenges with their health walk the runway and attendees get to hear their stories of survival and triumph from illness, car accidents, birth deformities, and rare diseases. It is always awe-inspiring to see these women shine with their casual and elegant wear. Morgan’s of Delaware, a black woman owned boutique always participates with the most trendy African printed tops and skirts. This year, women’s clothing chain Dress Barn supplied many looks.

As always this year providing me with such great facts and stats about diseases, wellness, and treatments as it pertains to black women. It is so valuable to receive this information to ensure we can practice preventive measures for our personal healthy lifestyles.

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Well behaved women rarely make history

— Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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